Girl, 6, brings determination to 'Jump Rope for Heart'
By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 7, 2012 1:46 PM
Zephyr Cazeault smiles while working in her first-grade class at Meadow Lane Elementary School. Born with a heart condition, she hasn't let it stop her from using her energy to help others, raising more than $400 for Jump Rope For Heart.
Zephyr Cazeault was born with a heart condition.
But that was so long ago. She's 6 years old now and isn't about to miss a beat.
"My heart feels great," she said. "I can almost jump 11 times. I got practice jump ropes. I can almost count to 100 so I can catch my breath.
"I can also do running in place."
And with that, she finds a place on a carpeted area of the counselor's office at Meadow Lane Elementary School, where Zephyr is a first-grader.
"I can do at least 10 push-ups," she says, positioning herself on the floor to demonstrate. "I can also do running in place."
Stormy Cazeault is thankful for her daughter's progress, which wasn't guaranteed when doctors found problems with a heart valve.
"She was born with a heart defect," she said. "They did surgery when she was 18 months old. She's perfect now but (surgery) might have to happen again when she's 16."
There are no physical limitations and maybe because of that, when Zephyr learned about an annual fundraiser for the American Heart Association, she immediately rose to the challenge.
Schools around the county are participating again this year in Jump Rope for Heart. Physical education teachers introduce a unit on jumping rope and other ways to take care of their hearts through exercise, while encouraging students to raise money for the Heart Association.
"I really wanted to do it," Zephyr said. "I'm really helpful and I help my mom around the house, so I asked her, 'Can I do Jump Rope for Heart because I help around the house?' She said yes."
Her grandfather, Gerard Cazeault, was also instrumental in the effort.
"He encouraged her to go out there and do it," Ms. Cazeault said. "She's a lucky one out of all the kids that have heart problems."
Her granddad gave her some pointers on what to say and oftentimes accompanied her, Zephyr said.
"I went to the beauty shop, Zaxby's, the dollar store," she said. "I asked a lot of people, 'Would you like to (give to) Jump Rope for Heart?' and they said, 'Yes.'"
"Some of them said, 'No," but I said, 'Thank you, anyway.'"
She has already collected $420 and until the project wraps up later this month, shows no sign of slowing down.
"I'm planning to do a lot," she said. "I'm planning to do more and more and more."
Now if she can just learn to jump rope, her mother laughed. But the pride is still evident as she speaks about her daughter.
"I just think it's amazing that she wants to do this," she said. "Whatever she wants to do, she's going to do it. There's no telling her no."
And at the rate she's going, Zephyr just may collect a few of the incentive prizes offered to those bringing in the most money.
"I'm up to the electric scooter," she said, excitedly. "They have eight prizes and I got to all of them all by myself, because I raised a lot of money. Mr. (Danny) Stanley said when you save money and do it all the time, you get prizes and I really wanted all those things so I can exercise all day."
Stanley and Jody Parker are her physical education teachers, she explained, and they're "really proud" of her efforts.
And how does she feel knowing she's helping other boys and girls with heart problems like she once had?
"It makes my heart feel special," she said.